Sparks Fly – Chapter 6

“Nic, you’re not yourself.”

“What the hell?”

It was Charlie’s voice, calling to him gently, his assistant waving a hand aimlessly in front of Nic’s face. Charlie was sitting on the edge of Nic’s desk, a very casual approach that Nic didn’t usually encourage. He glared up at Charlie and the other man slipped off his perch quickly. Nic glanced down at the papers in front of him and realized he’d signed his name three times over on the one document… and all in the wrong place. He had no memory of any of it.

“What is it, distracting you like this, for days now? Who is it?” Charlie gave an exaggerated sigh. “Is it that systems guy West you’ve been hanging around with again?”

Nic didn’t think Charlie was that perceptive. Still, he was with Nic every day… and some nights. Maybe he had noticed something that even he, Nic, wasn’t aware of. In the meantime, Nic didn’t dare answer. His heart was hammering at his chest and he couldn’t let it out. Shit, he hadn’t felt so confused for years.

“Nic, do you hear me?” A rather sly look came into Charlie’s eyes, and he lowered his voice. They were alone in Nic’s office with no one else nearby. “Are you interested in him?”

Nic frowned. “Shut up, Charlie.”

Charlie ignored him. “This guy… do you want to know what I know about him?”

Nic shook his head forcefully, but his mouth said, “Yes.”

Charlie hitched himself comfortably back up onto the edge of the desk again, settling in for a gossip. “He lives for his work, I’d say. The systems team think he’s God come to earth, laptop in hand, and show him the same fearful awe they’d offer the real deal. He keeps to himself, never talks about his apartment or his hobbies, or even his family. Seems to exist in a world of his own and no one else has the security code. We’ve never seen him with anyone, girl or guy, and he avoids any of the banter in the break room.” Charlie glanced at Nic and grinned. “Men’s or women’s. But no one dislikes him, either, they just find him difficult to get on with socially. He contributes to the office lottery, stands his turn at the coffee machine when he’s in the building, attends the essential briefings. But otherwise… no encouragement given. Patti lusts over him like he’s some kind of chocolate fudge cake. But he’s very smart at avoiding her. He hasn’t joined in anything else remotely social, in or out of the office, for at least a year.”

“A year?”

“Not since the initial development of the Sparks software ended,” Charlie added. “Since he stopped working with you, actually.”

Nic glanced up sharply but Charlie’s expression was one of total innocence—which was guilty in itself. Nic sighed. Whatever Charlie’s public face showed, Nic knew he saw most of what went on in the office, whether he shared it with anyone or kept it to himself. And most certainly anything to do with Nic.

“So you’ve never seen him with anyone? Not… never been interested in anyone?” Nic struggled to keep the hoarse need out of his voice. Charlie probably heard it all, though, especially the things that weren’t being said.

“Some guy from Data Processing tried to hit on him in the office after last year’s Christmas lunch and he went ballistic. Nearly broke the man’s wrist.”

“What?” Nic was startled. “I never saw any official complaint.”

“Nothing was ever filed,” Charlie said gleefully. “They seemed to settle it between themselves afterwards. I took it on myself to have a quiet word with the guy, but he swore no one would be filing for sexual harassment or anything, though I guess he’d have been the one on the hook for the harassment if so. No, it was just a… misunderstanding.”


“Yeah. West didn’t like being groped and removed the guy’s hand out of his crotch rather too forcefully.” Charlie gave a reluctantly admiring smile. “It was very efficiently done. And there’s no lasting ill-will between them that I can see. You want to know anything else?”

Nic shook his head, and this time both his pride and his mouth said, “No.”

Charlie put his hand on his employer’s shoulder. “Looks like he’s not in the market, I’m afraid. Looks like he doesn’t do guys at all.”

“I don’t… it’s not that…” Nic couldn’t finish a sentence. Instead, he sank his head into his hands.

“Hey, cheer up!” Charlie laughed, totally misjudging the extent of Nic’s distress. “What do you care that he’s missing out? After all, you’ll do anyone, won’t you?”

Nic tossed restlessly on his bed all night. The late night film didn’t distract him, the half bottle of scotch didn’t drug him. And he didn’t want anything else.

Just Aidan.

Dear God. He gave up trying to sleep and sat up, slinging his legs over the edge of the mattress. He was wearing nothing but his boxers, but there was still a fine sheen of sweat all over his skin. Sighing, he went to make himself a cup of hot chocolate. There weren’t any proper cooking facilities in the hotel suite, and if he didn’t want to go out, he usually ordered from the hotel kitchen, or Charlie brought something in. But the one thing he’d insisted on was the means to make his favorite drink. He sat back down on the bed with it and tried to calm himself. It was warm and steamed on his cheeks when he sipped, and had the sweet comfort factor that usually soothed him.

But not tonight.

Nic tried to remember the last time he’d felt this way. He felt like some lovesick teenager, moping over a crush, and he tried to laugh at himself. Hell, there’d been plenty of times he’d lusted after someone—a smile had intrigued him, a body had excited him, an adoring look had warmed him. But it bore no comparison to the agony inside him now.

When he thought of Aidan it wasn’t with a pleasant frisson of sexual excitement and a sense of mischief, the measures of his previous relationships. He’d always enjoyed the chase for a new lover—who didn’t?—but now the distance between them was a torment, not a game. Aidan inspired all the wrong things in him: anger, frustration, provocation, argument. Dammit, he shouldn’t be feeling need as well!

But he was.

He put the empty mug on the side table and stretched out on the bed. Time for some of that infamous truth that he so prided himself on. He’d allowed a sense of complacency to slip into his life. The struggles in his early life had been tough and had strengthened his determination, for sure. But then the last couple of years had been a whirl of excitement and success and pride and pleasure… during which, he’d lost that edge. Fuck, he’d come to believe in his own hype. Now he’d met a man who ignored the whole fame and charm thing, and just saw Nic Gerrard, the man.

And didn’t like him much.

It shouldn’t matter, he told himself. He did his best with the life he’d been given and he wasn’t going to make excuses for how he was. There were always going to be people he couldn’t reach; couldn’t win over. People like Aidan West. They were just employer and employee, after all. There were plenty of other Gerrard fans to entertain him. It shouldn’t matter.

Dear God, but it did.

He rolled over on to his side, groaning aloud. It was as if Aidan was there in the room with him, scowling at him. Charlie had said “he doesn’t do guys”, so what had that kiss been?

The best fucking tongue massage you’ve ever had, groaned his inner voice. The lustful one. Nic couldn’t help himself reacting: his cock throbbed beneath his boxers, swelling with the memory of Aidan’s mouth on his, Aidan’s hand gripping the back of his neck. The other man’s angry, insulting words still rang in Nic’s ears, but he slid his hand down inside the silk and palmed himself. He flinched as his fingers curled around his cock: the flesh was so sensitive. He stroked very gently, but he knew he wouldn’t be holding back the climax for long.

What had Aidan meant by it? It hadn’t seemed premeditated, hadn’t seemed malicious. Could it have been a rare loss of control by a man who tried not to let his desires show? Nic was sure Aidan had enjoyed it as much as he did. The passion he’d put into it… the need Nic thought he’d felt and tasted….

Nah, said the voice again. He baited you and you let him. He was jerking you around! He despises you. It was a demonstration….

Yeah, Nic thought. But of what? Of how much he hated Nic Gerrard and his shameful lifestyle?

He moaned aloud in the solitary apartment, the gentle pumping of his dick sending shudders throughout his whole body. He wanted Aidan’s kiss to be something else; he wanted it to be more than just spite. He wanted Aidan to see more in Nic than the playboy, than the easy lover. He wanted… he wanted….

Nic gasped aloud as his climax wracked him, the cum spurting from his cock and soaking both his hand and the sheets beneath him. His back arched and he bit his lip to stop crying out, though there was no one in the deserted corridor outside to hear him. There were only a few exclusive apartments on this floor, and he had virtually the whole damn place to call his own, to cry out his need and his satisfaction in perfect isolation.

Fucking perfect. Not.

He lay for a moment, catching his breath, his limbs shivering and his cock limp again on his thigh. The cum cooled on his skin, thick and sticky. Fuck, he thought, angry with himself. It was a long time since he’d shouted out a guy’s name when he came, but that’s what he’d wanted to do. And the guy wasn’t even there in the room with him.

He struggled up again to go and wash up in the bathroom. He knew he wasn’t going to get any sleep that night, whatever he did.

You’d better believe it.

A couple of days later, Aidan opened his door to the sharp knock, expecting a delivery of technical manuals—he’d been searching for an old edition of one classic for months now—and instead he found Nic Gerrard, leaning against the outside wall and looking a little sheepish.

Aidan took a breath. The sight of this tall, rangy man, dressed as smartly as he ever did for the office, yet with an almost nervous expression that made him seem boyish—it sent entirely the wrong signals through his traitorous body. Shit, would he ever shake this off?

“What are you doing here?”

Nic’s eyes flickered over Aidan’s body, down from his unbrushed, unruly hair to the spread of his chest, bare except for a towel slung around his shoulders, and further down to the well-worn sweat pants hanging loosely at his hips. They dipped a little at the waistband, hugging Aidan’s navel. Nic’s eyes lingered there too long for a polite visitor, but he couldn’t seem to tear his gaze away.

Aidan made sure he caught Nic’s gaze when it darted up guiltily from its examination of his body. He stared him out, though not without thanking God he’d put the pants on only ten minutes ago.

Nic grimaced. “You won’t believe I was just passing, will you?”

Aidan found himself leaning forward to catch the words from the voice he’d quarantined himself against for days. Obviously unsuccessfully. “You know I won’t. Like anyone would believe this very retro neighborhood is on its way up, and you’re looking for property here to celebrate your rich and famous lifestyle.”

Nic ignored the sarcasm. Aidan thought it probably needed more work.

“You haven’t been in to work, Aidan. I thought there might be something wrong.”

“I can work remotely, you know.”

“Ahh, yes,” Nic shrugged. “Seems I forgot. How were the reports about the hacker’s trail?”

Aidan glared at him, suspiciously. Did he know? Know that Aidan was no further along, after all that work? He’d produced reams of reports, thousands of ghost trails through the system, but none that showed any significant pattern, none that shouted ‘hacker!’ to him yet. He’d had one wild moment of inspiration—and the promise of success—but he was a fool to have thought it’d be that easy. He’d come to realize he needed help, but damned if he was going to admit that—and not to Nic Gerrard. He’d find someone else—anyone else—to discuss it with.

“Uh-huh,” he said, leaning on his door as if to close it in Nic’s face. “I’ll report in later. By e-mail.”

Nic ignored the rudeness. To be fair, Aidan knew he was getting plenty of practice at it. “It’s the pre-market launch celebration on Friday. Day after tomorrow. Will you tear yourself away from your four walls for that?”

“Why am I needed there? Want to show off your pet geek?”

Nic blanched. “Everyone will be there. Everyone on the team.” Had he emphasized that last word just a little too heavily?

“Who gave you my address?”

“For God’s sake. I have an HR department.”

“Not for my address,” Aidan retorted. “I’m a private company and I use a business postbox.”

Nic had the decency to blush. “Charlie found it for me. Apparently he knows people who know people.”

Figured. Charlie would turn on a dime and dance to hits from Chicago for Nic if he asked.

“I haven’t let anyone else know,” Nic said. “I won’t in future, either.”

“Just one stalker at a time, right?”

Nic flushed again, but probably from anger this time. “You really are the most aggressive, rude, paranoid, son of a—”

“Just leave me alone,” Aidan said. A sigh slipped out. Why didn’t he slam the door and let Nic stumble back across downtown? Unless Charlie was waiting with a limo for him outside the apartment building.

“You deserve credit for your work,” Nic said doggedly. “Like I say, all the team will be there. It’s churlish to cut yourself off from them like this.”

Aidan couldn’t help himself—he gazed at Nic’s mouth as he was speaking. Remembered the feel of it. Felt the instinctive, answering ache in his groin. He wanted to reach out and slide his hand around the man’s neck, pull him into the room, feel that mouth again under his….

This was going badly—very badly. He had to get Nic Gerrard away from here, and fast. He used the only weapon he had, his bad temper.

“Churlish, you say? You recognize that, then, do you?”

“Damned right I do!” The temperature was rising already, and Aidan hadn’t budged from the doorway. Nic was still standing in the hallway, tension throughout his whole body.

“Admit it,” Aidan sneered. “You’re the one who’s behaving badly. You think I’m sulking.”

“What the hell?”

“It’s all about you, about what you think, right? You think I’m letting the whole team down, because I might not make it to your party. That I might not be interested in your life of social indulgence.”

“What’s up with you?” Nic’s eyes were narrow, his lips tight. “You’re surely intelligent enough to know I’m not here just for the fun of it.”

Aidan shook his head, frowning back. “You think I must be upset just because you hit on me and I was stupid enough to refuse you.”

Nic’s eyes widened again. “I didn’t hit on you!”

“But you were going to. Right?”

Aidan had barely enough time to lean away from Nic’s angry yell of reply. His eyes blazed, and his hand slammed against the door frame, inches from Aidan’s ear. Aidan winced.

“You arrogant prick! As if I’d be interested in a guy like you, as if I had some kind of death wish!”

Aidan swallowed back the nausea that rose up in him at that. “So you’re here for… remind me?”

“Maybe to remind you that you’re the one who thrust his tongue down my throat!”

Both of them stopped shouting suddenly, both of them apparently shocked at the sudden, graphic memory. Aidan knew he was. And the expression in Nic’s eyes was a strange, unexpected mixture of fury and anguish that startled him.

He didn’t know why Nic was so bothered—why he’d felt the need to chase him to his own apartment. Why Nic gave a shit about an employee who was obviously more trouble than he was worth.

And he wouldn’t—couldn’t—give way.

“You won’t come in, then?” His voice was a mockery of Nic’s earlier charming ruefulness. He couldn’t have stopped this ridiculous confrontation if his life depended on it. But as he snapped at Nic, he saw the pain he was causing and he despised himself.

Nic was panting slightly, but had regained control of himself. “I’ve got a company going public in a couple of days’ time, West, I don’t need your hostility issues on top of that. Forgive me for bothering you.”

“Fine by me. It’s not like I sent out a call for reinforcements. I don’t need anything from you.”

Nic had already turned to go, his face still red with anger. But he turned back at the last second, as Aidan was about to shut the door. Short of trapping Nic’s hand against the doorframe, Aidan could only keep it open.

“What is it?”

“The party.” Nic glowered at Aidan’s careless shrug as if he wanted to grab Aidan and shake it out of him. “I want to know if you’re coming.”

“I might be there. I don’t know. I have more work to do on finding the hacker.” Aidan couldn’t say any more about it now. Maybe never. The last thing on his mind was a corporate party full of suits and the press and the celebration of yet another Gerrard success. He ignored the fact that it was partly his, too. Instead, he stared at Nic in challenge. “You’d better get back to your life of riotous fun and indulgence, eh?”

Nic looked pointedly at the quiet, narrow hallway around him, at Aidan’s front door, and finally the glimpse of the bleak apartment beyond.

“Enjoy yours!” he hissed venomously. And this time, it was he who turned and left.

Aidan stood in his apartment doorway, unmoving, even after he heard the slamming of the main door of the building, and heard Nic’s car speeding off. No limo service, then. He was absurdly glad that Nic had made the personal effort to come to see him.

He’d been planning to go into the office that day, after the delivery came. He needed to find some more technical references; he needed to talk to his colleagues. Call up some expert friends.

And you wanted to see Nic, didn’t you? hissed his inner voice.

Well, now he’d done that already, hadn’t he? Saw him and spat vitriol at him and effectively chased him off.

That went well.

He wasn’t sure how he could feel any more wretched than he already did. The guy affected him so strongly he lost complete control of himself when Nic was there. The words he spoke sounded alien—his attitude was aggressive, his body tense where before it might have been more relaxed. Things were getting worse, not better.

He’d planned to go in because he’d been thinking how to face Nic again. What to say. Whether to give in his notice—or find a way to apologize for his behavior outside the bar the other morning.

To be honest, he had no idea whether he even wanted to. The memory of Nic’s mouth was so vivid that Aidan believed it had burned his skin somehow. He’d been in the shower just an hour before Nic knocked at his door, keeping the water as cold as he possibly could. But it hadn’t been enough to shake off another night of disturbed sleep and unwelcome, sensual dreams. And then suddenly the man he dreamed about so cruelly had actually been there, in front of him, the easy smile turned on him, the words directed at him, the dark eyes traveling up and down his body. He’d slipped back into confusion, immediately and irretrievably.

And it was all his own fucking fault.

What had he been thinking of, kissing Nic like that, surrendering to complete and utter madness for the sake of a moment’s desperate passion? Touching that flesh—tangling fingers in that hair—gazing into those eyes?

Aidan groaned aloud, slumping back against the door frame.

Nic’s blue eyes had become the color of his own, personal nightmare.

Half an hour later, a harassed delivery guy struggled up the stairs to Aidan’s apartment with the anticipated parcel of manuals and found his customer standing at his door, almost as if he’d been waiting for him. A tall, dark haired guy in just his sweats, with a strangely blank look on his face. He looked as if he’d been there for a while, and was momentarily confused when the clipboard was thrust under his nose for a signature. The expression turned quickly to a glower. The delivery guy shuffled the completed paperwork nervously, and bounded away down the stairs as swiftly as he could.

He heard the door slam shut to the apartment behind him. Looked like the guy had given up his vigil in the end.

“One more day to go until the launch party.” Charlie smiled. “You’re going to be the toast of the town!”

He was at Nic’s side, as they went into Nic’s hotel suite that night, Charlie carrying a pile of papers that Nic hadn’t been able to concentrate on in the office.

Nic turned to see Charlie out, but the dark-haired man was a lot closer than he’d imagined. So close that Nic could see the spark in his dark, slow eyes, feel the heat in his fingers as they slipped Nic’s jacket off his shoulders.

“No, Charlie. Not tonight.”

“No what, Nic? No friendly comfort? No company for a little while? Surely not… I know that look. It’s been a shit of a day for you.” He was pressing Nic back on to the couch, slipping the top button of his shirt almost before he noticed, sliding on to the deep, padded seat beside him. His fingers vanished under the silk and began kneading insistently at Nic’s knotted shoulder muscles.

“No. I want to go to bed.”

“Works for me,” Charlie replied smugly.

Nic had the energy for a tired smile, but only just. “Not with anyone, Charlie. Just me. To sleep. I don’t think I’ve done enough of that recently.”

“Come on, you want to, you know you do.” Charlie’s voice was insidious, arrogant in its confidence. “You can fuck me tonight if you like.” His hands were sliding down inside the shirt, roaming over Nic’s back, down over muscles that were too tight, ribs that were starting to get pronounced under too-thin flesh. “I’ve been hard since I stepped through that door. The sight of you relaxing in your own surroundings always does that to me. You can fuck me, then maybe I’ll return the favor. Or not. Whatever you want. It’s all fabulous to me.”

“I don’t want to.”

Charlie ignored him. “Yes, you do. It’s fun, and you like fun, don’t you? Let me suck you off. Let me hold you, slick up your cock inside my mouth….” He was panting now, his lip against Nic’s neck, his fingers on their way into Nic’s pants. “Touch me, Nic. Touch my cock, just a little, do whatever you like—”

“I’m not allowed a choice in this?” Nic could hear the sudden ice in his tone.

Charlie didn’t heed the warning. He was too far gone now. His voice was thick with lust and with need. Nic realized suddenly, with a sinking heart, what a cruelly symbiotic relationship he’d allowed to develop. Christ, was he comatose for large stretches of his life? Was he blind to the people around him? Was Aidan right about him?

“Tell you what,” Charlie whispered, trying to relax Nic with what he thought would be mischievous humor. “You close your eyes, I’ll make noises like a laptop powering up, and you can imagine you’re fucking him—”

And that did it.

Nic took Charlie’s arms, wrenched them from where they grasped Nic’s shoulders, and pushed him away. “Get out. Go, Charlie. Now.”

Charlie sat back, rather stupidly, slumped against the arm of the couch. His shirt was untucked and he’d already started to unzip his pants. He looked flushed and more than a little ridiculous. “Nic, wait, you don’t know what you’re saying.”

“No. No. I won’t say it again.” Nic took a deep breath, trying to stop the words from sticking around the lump in his throat. “I don’t want to fuck you, God help me, and don’t make me be any more cruel than that. I really don’t want to be. I like you, Charlie.”

Charlie stared at him, bemused. “Just because you want that geek doesn’t mean you can’t have any fun—”

“Charlie, you’re out of line. Way out of line!” Nic had raised his voice and he saw Charlie flinch. “Get out before I call security.”

Charlie colored deeply, finally realizing that something significant had changed between him and his boss. It was probably only the thought of jeopardizing his job as well as his sex life that stopped him from arguing any more.

“Nic, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you.” He looked genuinely contrite.

Nic sighed. His anger was being gradually replaced with bone-deep misery. This wasn’t Charlie’s fault, far from it. “You haven’t. I mean, I understand.”

Charlie put a far more gentle hand on Nic’s arm. The gesture was all about friendship, not sex, and Nic let it rest. “Nic, you look shattered. I should have noticed. I should have taken better care of you. I’m so sorry.” He laughed shakily as he tucked his shirt tails back in. “You’re the most gorgeous man I’ve ever seen, let alone fucked. But you’re just a man like me at heart, aren’t you? Just a guy.”

“Yes.” Nic let out a long, slow breath, “Just a guy.”

“And I forgot that.” Charlie looked mortified. “A fabulous guy, but a weary one. What have we been doing to you?”

“Please. I’ll be fine. But go home, Charlie.” Nic couldn’t explain; he couldn’t discuss anything right now. “It’s as much my fault as yours. But things have got to change—and this is where it starts.”

Aidan didn’t go into the office. Instead, he sat for long hours into the early morning and watched rows and rows of data blinking at him. Mocking him. He’d worked furiously, intensely, for most of that time. He was logged into Sparks remotely, but was so engrossed in his work he forgot for long stretches of time his surroundings.

As he’d told Nic originally, his plan had been to tempt the hacker into the test database with a fake program, where Aidan could chase him. He’d been remapping the routes through the system, trying to offer tempting but false decision paths hidden in the new data, in the hope the hacker followed, coming out into the open.

But it didn’t seem to have happened. He now had a massive list of unidentified user data in both the main and the test system that may—or may not—be suspicious, that may lead to the hacker’s identity. Or not. He knew someone was breaking in, he was attuned enough to the system to know that something was wrong: and he knew the dangers that could lead to. But although he was shit hot on programming his own system, he was struggling with trying to trace the identity of a thief.

I should be pleased I can’t easily think like a criminal, right?

It would be amusing if it wasn’t so fucking frustrating. He didn’t think the hacker was particularly skilled—the unauthorized access data was a hell of a mess, with no pattern Aidan could see, and with a myriad of addresses that may or may not be valid—

Ugh. That anguish circled again. Aidan admitted to himself he had to seek expert help. Soon. It would hurt, to share his failure—for that was how he perceived it—but Sparks was more important than his pride.

He cursed for maybe the twentieth time the fact that he didn’t have all the kit he needed at home. A laptop wasn’t resilient enough for the in-depth exercises he needed to run. Any seeking of help, or further investigation would have to be done from the office. And he couldn’t afford to waste any valuable time. Surely his desire to catch the hacker was more important than any embarrassment he might feel… wasn’t it? He’d have to face things at some stage or other.

Face Nic.

The launch party was the following night, he knew that. He could imagine what it’d be like in the office today, the phones ringing, the melee of reporters in the lobby. The whole place would be full of the excitement, the anticipation.

He groaned at the thought. Soon. He’d go back in soon.

Drinking some of the juice he had beside him, he browsed idly through a sub-folder that he’d not noticed before. It was cushioned in between two complex accounting packages in the directory list. Looked like no one bothered accessing them except the Finance team. He wasn’t sure what caught his eye, but it was probably the name—the Rapport Trust. He immediately thought of Nic, and what he’d told Aidan about his first introduction to Sparks. “Greg called it ‘Rapport’, did you know that?”

The name was a coincidence, that was all. Aidan just couldn’t get the damned man off his mind. But… if you wanted to hide something from daily public view, what better place than in amongst highly specialist stuff?

He dipped in, aimlessly—the password security was never going to be strong enough to keep him out, and it was, after all, in a legitimate business directory—and realized that it was something of Nic’s. No work had been done in the folder since a year ago. Maybe it had been an early draft of one of Nic’s business plans, and he’d transferred it over to the main directory since then. Maybe it was just some rough notes he’d never bothered to delete.

Aidan read through very carefully, his surprise increasing by the second.

It was something he’d never have expected Nic Gerrard to be involved in—or perhaps he should have, if his mind had been less clouded with the complex, conflicting feelings he had for the man himself. He scrolled through a project plan, a mission statement, and a set of detailed business objectives for the next five years. Then a selection of half-finished board minutes, chronicling the set-up of this Trust, and its aims and desires. The controlling force throughout it all was most definitely and clearly Nic Gerrard himself.

Shit!” he said aloud.

He’d not been so shocked for a long time. Shocked at an insight to Nic that he’d never have otherwise imagined. When he looked more closely, the records showed the Trust had been established for over five years, well before Nic came into his current wealth and fame. Aidan assumed that the name had come from Nic’s friend, Greg. Maybe an homage to the small business they’d shared, that Nic had taken over to greater success.

Aidan blinked, hard. He’d been blind to everything. Not interested. And he had no excuse, except obsession with his own partisan judgments. His preconceptions of the Gerrard effect.

He had both misjudged and misunderstood Nic, through his own stubbornness.

Idiot! There was a tightness in his chest; a strange kind of distress. He’d been wrong about so many things, though he had no idea what to do about it now.

Did he?

Sighing, he put down the juice and pulled himself out of his chair to go shower and change.


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